High School Students Explore the World of App Development

Lenovo and the National Academy Foundation launched a new program to provide mobile app development curriculum in American high schools. In a press release, the NAF points out five schools from the network of career academies are championing the program. It is part of Lenovo’s and the NAF’s “innovative curriculum” which hopes to sponsor learning in science, technology, engineering and math.

The five schools participating in the program are Grover Cleveland High School in New York City, Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles, Pathways to Technology Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., A.J. Moore Academy of Information and Technology in Waco, Texas and Apex High School’s Academy of Information Technology in Apex, North Carolina.

Lenovo’s research points out “while students have a strong interest in mobile apps—which many of them use on a daily basis—and see app development as a valuable skill, they don’t have confidence that they will have the technology background needed for tomorrow’s workforce.”

The press release continues with some data from their findings:

  • 80 percent of American teens would be interested in learning how to create their own mobile app.
  • Almost a quarter (22 percent) think that mobile app development will be the most important technology skill to have when entering the workforce in a few years.
  • 63 percent are only somewhat confident, at best, that the technology know-how they have now is enough to secure a good job upon entering the workforce.

As a 25-year-old who HASN’T made millions by developing a breakthrough app, I can say this definitely sounds like a promising opportunity for American high school students. People have great ideas for apps every day, but if one lacks the technical know-how to get their idea off the ground, no app will ever see the light of day. And look—Germany got this started two Januarys ago! Some Texas high schoolers caught up a year later with a social activity app called Amarillo 365.

With schools painfully behind in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) curriculum, it is exciting to see such real-world applications integrated into American education. Teach.com features an outstanding infographic about the decline of STEM Education. In 2009, American high school students ranked 23rd in the world in science. They ranked 31st in math. Painful numbers to consider when thinking about the supremacy of the United States in the global economy.

But in 2011 the Obama Administration proposed a national goal of investing more than 3% of GDP in public and private research and development. This is in response to the President’s 2011 goal of preparing “10,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math.” The fact that the President listed the subjects in the order they appear in the STEM acronym is no coincidence either.

Teaching kids about the development of products in such a cash-cow industry as mobile applications is a step in the right direction. For kids to see the actual result of their work in something as tangible as a brightly lit smartphone screen is an opportunity for them to do real work in the world. Perhaps it’s time to start displaying “Made in America” in the app store.